Remember what happened last Monday and Tuesday?
Of course you don’t.
These days, it’s hard enough to remember yesterday, much less nearly a week ago.
So here’s a reminder of just a few of the news events that swirled wildly around us on those two recent days.
A former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, Sam Nunberg, went on a madcap tour of cable networks, after telling The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey that he would not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation.
Stormy Daniels, the porn-film actress and director, sued the president and declared invalid his effort to hush up their alleged affair, saying he never signed the legal agreement between them.
The administration’s chief economic adviser quit his post, apparently to express his disagreement with the president’s trade policies - policies that, according to news reports, Trump had announced without much counsel.
Amid all this, the president, as is his wont, tweeted.
“The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong!” he wrote. “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”
Well, yes. There is also great energy in unsupervised kindergarten classrooms, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t mayhem, too.
For news consumers - also known as responsible citizens who want to stay informed - it’s all too much.
Making it worse is an ugly truth: The news media itself is often chaotic.
Twitter is a Mobius strip of scoops and all-caps alerts and snark-filled commentary. Facebook is your very own echo chamber. Cable news channels veer from self-important pundit panels to - as with Nunberg - shiny-object developments. Even the most serious news websites are constantly changing and rearranging, not just to react to news but to enhance clicks.
That’s part of why Farhad Manjoo’s news diet caused so much discussion. The New York Times tech reporter said he took a two-month break from getting his news in his usual digital ways, relying more heavily on three print newspapers and the Economist magazine.
“Turning off the buzzing breaking-news machine I carry in my pocket was like unshackling myself from a monster who had me on speed dial, always ready to break into my day with half-baked bulletins,” he wrote. (As Columbia Journalism Review noted Friday, he continued to tweet on most days, so he clearly wasn’t disengaged from social media or digital news.)
In 2018, few of us are likely to unplug and get our news from day-old print newspapers. Nor should we.
Our world is digital, and there is no turning back the clock. (Besides, subscribing to three print newspapers has become mighty expensive; just last week, the new cost of being a seven-day home subscriber to the Boston Globe, for example, climbed to a whopping $1,347 a year.)
But for those whose heads are spinning from news overload, there are remedies - ones that aren’t terribly extreme.
First, just reading the headlines on a printed newspaper’s front page each day helps. Even if you don’t devour the paper cover to cover, you can get a sense of the priority and scope of the past day’s events.
Case in point: CNN may have barely looked up from the Sam Nunberg adventures on Monday afternoon, but in Tuesday’s print-edition Washington Post, the story occupied a modest one-column perch on the left side of the front page.
It was as if the editors were saying: Notable, yes. World-changing? Certainly not. And by Tuesday morning, Nunberg’s bravado had faded, as, of course, it was destined to.
The Stormy Daniels lawsuit didn’t make the front page at all; it was on A3.
Even if you don’t agree with these gatekeepers’ subjective judgments, you may find they provide some perspective.
Second, take some breaks - hours at a time, certainly - from social media. It’s addictive, by design, so this isn’t easy. But whatever self-discipline you can muster will certainly be worthwhile. (Personal rule: The phone does not come along to yoga class. Because that is the very definition of counter-productivity.)
And third, find two or three sources of serious news - a well-curated newsletter, an evening news broadcast, a top-of-the-hour briefing on public radio, or the news app of a respected newspaper - and make it a daily habit, preferably consumed at a regular time and then set aside.
Oh, and consider turning off your breaking-news alerts, at least sometimes.
The alternative is downright dangerous to your mental and emotional well-being.
In a McSweeney’s sendup of the sweat-drenched workout sensation SoulCycle, Dan Carroll recently conjured an even more exhausting version - NewsCycle - which promises a room pulsating with screens flashing with various cable news networks and live feeds on Twitter and Facebook.
“NewsCycle is the very first cycling class focused on completely exhausting you mentally and physically,” he riffed.
“This means not only will you see six-pack abs in no-time, but you’ll also find yourself completely despondent and unable to speak after just one session.”
Constant immersion in the news may seem like a necessity in this time of endless developments and churning chaos.
But for sanity’s sake, less is more.
Margaret Sullivan is a columnist with The Washington Post.